| 22 July 2024, Monday |

Thailand: Leading activist Arnon Nampa jailed over calls for royal reform

Arnon Nampa, one of Thailand’s most known political campaigners, was sentenced to four years in prison under the country’s widely criticized royal defamation, or lese-majeste, statute.

A Bangkok court condemned him for words he made during a demonstration in October 2020.

Under Thailand’s lese-majeste legislation, anybody who insults the king faces draconian prison penalties.

It has been increasingly enforced since the military seized control in a coup in 2014.

Mr Arnon, a human rights lawyer, was the first campaigner to publicly advocate for a national debate on the monarchy’s position in modern Thailand.

It is still unclear what triggered the explosion on Monday evening in Khankendi, often known as Stepanakert by Armenians.

The verdict follows months of public discussion of the law after the general election in May, in which the progressive Move Forward party defied expectations by winning the largest number of votes and seats in parliament on a platform of sweeping reform, including a demand that the lese-majeste law be amended.

That demand was cited by the military-appointed senate as justification for blocking Move Forward from forming a government, despite the clear majority it had with its then-coalition partners in parliament.

Simply proposing changes to the law, argued many senators, amounted to a threat to the monarchy’s status in Thailand and could not be allowed.

As a result, an alternative coalition was cobbled together, which includes many of the conservative parties from the outgoing administration. Any debate about the monarchy will now certainly be strongly discouraged.